Archaeologists Discover an 18th-Century Plaque Commemorating the Departure of Jews from Lithuania to the Land of Israel

Excavating the remains of the Great Synagogue in Vilnius (formerly Vilna), researchers made an unexpected discovery this summer, as Agence France-Presse reports:

The stone plaque was discovered in a cellar below . . . the Great Synagogue of Vilnius, [which was the city’s] major Jewish house of prayer before it was destroyed by [consecutive] Nazi and Soviet regimes. “In 1776 we went up with joy to our land (Erets Yisrael),” reads part of the inscription. It uses [a form of] the Hebrew word [la’alot, meaning to go up, as in the term] aliyah, referring to the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the land of Israel. . . .

The Vilnius synagogue, dating from the 1630s, was the most important synagogue for Lithuania’s once-vibrant Jewish community. Last year, archaeologists announced they had discovered the synagogue’s bimah, the podium or platform from which the Torah is read. The plaque . . . was discovered later in a cellar beneath the bimah. . . .

The Nazis burned down the synagogue and the remains were later demolished by the Soviet regime that built a kindergarten, later turned into a primary school, on the property.

Read more at Israel National News

More about: Aliyah, East European Jewry, Synagogues, Vilna

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict